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  1. #1
    Daniel the Dog
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    The fallacy of thinking you need 3-5 minutes

    I always seem to finish 3-5 minutes behind the winners in my Cat class. My wife said, "You just need 5 minutes to win." I said, "Maybe but if I rode faster the front guys would ride faster and I still would probably not win."

    Am I right or is my wife right? By the way I ride to have fun and am not stressed about this stuff. Also, the guys I usually lose to have ridden Cat 2 for years and are probably sandbaggers.

  2. #2
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    5 minutes can be made up. Depending upon what happens in a race it could vary. Don't be so sure that the front guys could go faster. But next race focus on knocking off just a minute or two, or moving up a few places.

  3. #3
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    Also depends on how long the race is. 5 minutes in an hour race is different than 5 minutes in a 3 hour race.

    This is why it's difficult to win a race. It's dangerous to think I was 'only' 2 minutes down and I can win if I could just get those 2 minutes. Your are right, the other guys are going to up the speed to defend their position.

  4. #4
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    The only one who could probably go faster is 1st place. That's it. But some people just ride hard enough to maintain their position.

    IME, the placings within a particular group stays pretty much the same all season. The correlation coefficient is pretty high. It's super rare to see someone start the season in the bottom quartile, and finish in the top quartile, for example. But there can be some movement within quartiles, but not much. (That's been my pet peeve with MTB racing; it's too damn predictable).

    But in typical Cat 2 racing distance, 5 minutes is not a bad gap. That could be closed next season (unlikely this season) with an increase in well-planned training hours.
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  5. #5
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    RE: The fallacy of thinking you need 3-5 minutes

    Yeah I hear you. Last year was my first racing after taking pretty much the whole winter off.

    This year I trained all winter and knocked a fair bit of time off last years time in the same race. I finished in the same position as last year with a better time. It seems like we're all progressing at the same rate....
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  6. #6
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    The fallacy of thinking you need 3-5 minutes

    3-5 minutes sounds like an eternity to my extremely limited experience (2 races total!) Did my first race ever this year in March (I'd been MTB'ing for all of 1 year at that point), which was around 9 miles after a 2.25-mile trail run. Ended up missing a podium spot by about a minute and a half. Was pretty bummed at first, thinking I'd gotten so close to a medal... Man, only 1:30 behind the 3rd place finisher!!! But reality quickly set in and realized that i wasn't really all that close after all. Guess I gotta have something to stoke the competitive fire next my next attempt at racing.

    BTW, I truly was racing for fun, with low expectations for my performance. But it was sooooo easy to get caught up in the competition and start cranking away!

  7. #7
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    Depends how you look at it and what your goals are.

    If you want to win and will not accept less, you will need to do more than just train to close the gap. The time difference between you and the winner from any given race only applies to that one, nothing else. By the next time you could be 5 minutes faster than previously, but they could be 7 minutes faster.

    If you just want to improve and place a bit higher next time, aim to become 5 minutes faster and see where that gets you in the next race. You'll see improvement and the hard work will not have gone to waste.

  8. #8
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    It doesn't matter if it's 5 minutes or 5 seconds. They're ahead of you.

  9. #9
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    Well put. It is not the time unless you are in a time trial. It's sticking with the leaders.
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  10. #10
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    I have limited experience but I disagree a little bit that 3 - 5 minutes is a lot to make-up, even in 1 - 1.5 hour race. Depending on the amount of time racing, a 3 minute gap can be the difference between riding .5 - 1 mph faster on average. Now, 1 mph faster is a lot to maintain over a course but .5 is much more manageable. If you use a computer it's a matter of knowing what average speed you need to maintain on each lap and then the mental ability to stay in the zone if physically possible.

    For example. My very first race last year took me 1:20 in 2 laps. My 2nd lap I average .5 mph slower than the first lap and my time was roughly 2.30 minutes slower. I was exhausted and felt like I gave everything but while on the course if I was paying attention to the average and trying to maintain it, maybe I would have pushed a little bit more on the flats or shifted up a gear after a climb instead of keeping it in the granny to recover more. Maybe I physically couldn't have, I don't know. But I think if your in great shape, .5 mph is an achievable goal to shoot for.
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  11. #11
    Daniel the Dog
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    It seems to me that many times the front few runners may be more willing to suffer. This last race I got a touch lazy midway through the race. Oh well what the heck I am not getting paid to do it

  12. #12
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    You can ride for fun and also to win, you just have to learn to enjoy higher heart rates. I took 20 years off, even got a little fat, but I started riding pretty hard 1.5 years ago, and 6 months ago decided I wanted to be fast and rode like I wanted to be fast, but not a lot of hours, just 3 to 4 short hard rides per week all winter long. I've gotten on the podium in each of the five c2 races I've done this year (two firsts). I've shaved 3 minutes off my 23 minute training lap in the past 6 months. That's pretty much just one gear 'harder', so it is doable.
    You just don't want wins bad enough yet, and that's ok, if you're having fun that's what matters. At the end of the last race I had dried foam spit-crap all around my mouth, I suffered but that's what you have to do to win. I get headaches after racing, and I had a burst blood vessel in my eye too. My race strategy is that I'm going to make anyone who beats me suffer, beating me will NOT be easy, - I think that's how you have to approach it for a win.

  13. #13
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    To get faster, you have to focus on your weaknesses and maintain or improve your strengths. I'm definitely not the best climber, but my descending skills are probably the best in the class, if not the whole race, I try to minimize my time losses on the climbs and make time on the flats and downhill. That strategy has worked out well for me, I'll never be a great climber, believe me, I train a lot on climbs, just not the natural born climber type. The simple fact is, generally you'll lose minutes on a climb and seconds on a downhill, so if climbing is your weakness, try to improve there if you can.

  14. #14
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    I think you should find out! and that's the fun bit

  15. #15
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    The fallacy of thinking you need 3-5 minutes

    Perhaps on the other hand, OP wasn't 5 minutes slower.

    Maybe he missed the move in the beginning, leaders got a gap and OP was alone.

    If he were with the lead group he could have managed the pace and finished closer. However, alone in the woods is hard to maintain the same intensity and thus the pace will slow.

    So it may not be the riders strength or endurance, but the nature of racing. Just another variable to consider, as if there aren't enough already.

  16. #16
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    The fallacy of thinking you need 3-5 minutes

    Couple of other factors - if the winner was by himself he probably has more speed in him though not much, but if battling then they're most likely pushing.

    Also, how 'easy' it is to make up a 5 minute gap in pace really depends on current fitness doesn't it? If one's not too trained then it should happen quite easily, but if you feel like you're putting in the time and are closer to your ideal, then obviously 5 minutes is a huge gap.
    Last edited by GT5050; 05-10-2013 at 08:49 PM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by GT5050 View Post
    Couple of other factors - if the winner was by himself he probably has more speed though not much, but if battling then they're most likely pushing.

    Also, how 'easy' it is to make up a 5 minute gap in pace really depends on current fitness doesn't it? If one's not too trained then it should happen quite easily, but if you feel like you're putting in the time and are closer to your ideal, then obviously 5 minutes is a huge gap.
    Sometimes it's not fitness, but skill (or lack thereof). Plus, sometimes you have to slow down to go fast (IOW, don't go blasting into turns, slamming on the brakes, and re-accelerating time after time after time... )

  18. #18
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    Your Wife is right. The Winners are riding at the limit of their ability and having a good day. Look at the results from the last 10 races. If there is a guy that wins consistently, he might have more left to give.

    The Best reply in this thread "Train your weaknesses, Race your Strengths". That's really all there is to say. There is not enough info in your post to determine what you will benefit the most from improving, and how long it should take is all speculation. Making up 5 min in a 2 hour race is not impossible. I will list a few things I would try and maybe others will chime in.

    1. Equipment. Gaining 5 min over 2 hours is less then a 5% improvement. If you don't have light XC race wheels, and XC race tires there might be some time to gain there. Agonizing over 20-30 grams here and there is not going to have a substantial effect. Every little bit helps, but Race wheels and tires make a difference on the clock. Also make sure the bike is 100% dialed. No brake rub, No loose bearings, as close to perfect as possible.

    2. Weight. I have no idea where you are at with Body weight, but if you have the weight to lose losing 10 lbs would make you a serious podium contender. Even losing a few labs will help close the gap.

    3. Training. Less weight and More power = Better Results. Its no secret. This is where you need to look at your strengths and weaknesses. I don't have any idea how you are training so I might be way off here, but if you have never done so try training your very top end power with intervals less then 2 min, and down as short as 20 sec.

    4. Race starts and strategy. My experience has been that in MTB races within the first 10 min the riders are like 90% in their finishing order. Of course there is still 110 minutes of race left, but most of the time the top 3 finishers are in the top 5 places 10 min in. If you want to win you need to be at the front from the start. So practice this in training. Put in a near 100% effort (Harder then you go at the start of a race) for 5-10 min and then settle in and ride 45 min or so at race pace. Get used to starting fast, and learn what works in a warm up to get you through it.
    Last edited by Pedalfaraway; 05-14-2013 at 08:55 AM. Reason: spelling
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  19. #19
    Daniel the Dog
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    I completely agree with your points. A lot of the cross country races start with a 2 mile dirt road climb. I tend to lose spots here as people move ahead of me...I need more leg speed. Another story. It is my second year in this sport and I have a few 5-7 finishes. A year or more I should be able to move into the top 5. I wish I had more time to train but I do have a rocking bike and a good helmet!


    Quote Originally Posted by Pedalfaraway View Post
    Your Wife is right. The Winners are riding at the limit of their ability and likely having a good day. Look at the results from the last 10 races. If there is a guy that wins consistently, he might have more left to give.

    The Best reply in this thread "Train your weaknesses, Race your Strengths". That's really all there is to say. There is not enough info in your post to determine what you will benefit the most from improving, and how long it should take is all speculation. Making up 5 min in a 2 hour race is not impossible. I will list a few things I would try and maybe others will chime in.

    1. Equipment. Gaining 5 min over 2 hours is less then a 5% improvement. If you don't have light XC race wheels, and XC race tires there might be some time to gain there. Agonizing over 20-30 grams here and there is not going to have a substantial effect. Every little bit helps, but Race wheels and tires make a difference on the clock. Also make sure the bike is 100% dialed. No brake rub, No loose bearings, as close to perfect as possible.

    2. Weight. I have no idea where you are at with Body weight, but if you have the weight to lose losing 10 lbs would make you a serious podium contender. Even losing a few labs will help close the gap.

    3. Training. Less weight and More power = Better Results. Its no secret. This is where you need to look at your strengths and weaknesses. I don't have any idea how you are training so I might be way off here, but if you have never done so try training your very top end power with intervals less then 2 min, and down as short as 20 sec.

    4. Race starts and strategy. My experience as been that in MTB races within the first 10 min the riders are like 90% in their finishing order. Of course there is still 110 minutes of race left, but most of the time the top 3 finishers are in the top 5 places 10 min in. If you want to win you need to be at the front from the start. So practice this in training. Put in a near 100% effort (Harder then you go at the start of a race) for 5-10 min and then settle in and ride 45 min or so at race pace. Get used to starting fast, and learn what works in a warm up to get you through it.

  20. #20
    FKA Malibu412
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    If you get strong enough/fast enough to make up that 3-5 minutes, make that hole-shot move at the start of the race and manage a few podium appearances, won't you be sandbagging? I mean, there's Cat 1 next, and Pro beyond.
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  21. #21
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    You're only 'one gear' on the cassette from the front, just get stronger enough to push one gear harder/faster on average at the same rpm!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaybo View Post
    I completely agree with your points. A lot of the cross country races start with a 2 mile dirt road climb. I tend to lose spots here as people move ahead of me...I need more leg speed. Another story. It is my second year in this sport and I have a few 5-7 finishes. A year or more I should be able to move into the top 5. I wish I had more time to train but I do have a rocking bike and a good helmet!
    You need more watts, and less kilos. Leg speed doesn't matter. Whether you're climbing at 50rpm or 90rpm, wattage is wattage.

    What is your bike setup? How much does it weigh? What tires and wheels are you using? Pressure? Shock setup/sag? What do you wear when you ride? Shoes, kit, bottle vs. camelbak?

    Control everything that you can. You, your bike, and the manner in which it is set up. Adapt your fork and tires/tire pressure for specific courses. I'd be willing to bet that you could knock off a few minutes through bike set up alone.

  23. #23
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    This cornering video helped me get faster
    How To: Cornering and Straight Line - Pinkbike

  24. #24
    Daniel the Dog
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    I'm doing okay with my racing. I go, race, and go home happy if I'm not injured or other issue. However, that said, I have a Niner Jet 9 RDO that weighs 25 lbs with Maxxis Iccon on the back and Schwable Rocket Ron on the front. I weight about 175 at 5'11" and carry little body fat. I probably don't have the ideal bike racing body type. I could probably get to the singletrack faster on the fireroads on a HT but I like the cush of a FS bike. I do use a triple chainring on my bike...I did like a double better.

    I will check into the watts thing. I have never gotten that deep into it. A lower gear at the same speed would help



    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    You need more watts, and less kilos. Leg speed doesn't matter. Whether you're climbing at 50rpm or 90rpm, wattage is wattage.

    What is your bike setup? How much does it weigh? What tires and wheels are you using? Pressure? Shock setup/sag? What do you wear when you ride? Shoes, kit, bottle vs. camelbak?

    Control everything that you can. You, your bike, and the manner in which it is set up. Adapt your fork and tires/tire pressure for specific courses. I'd be willing to bet that you could knock off a few minutes through bike set up alone.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaybo View Post
    I do use a triple chainring on my bike...I did like a double better.
    In that case, one option is to swap for a 2x10 with slightly harder gearing. You'll get used to it fairly quickly and being able to push those harder gears will make you faster. A granny is really too low to be competitive in most races unless they are insanely hilly. Any time you are in the granny ring in a race, you're losing a bunch of time to the faster folks.

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